Wednesday 2 January 2013

Tommorrow's Technology Today Background

The first product of the HMFC Memorial Sound Archive is the collection of all the episodes known to survive of the radio show, Tomorrow's Technology Today.

Painstakingly restored by Robin Catling and Victoria Pritchard, with the assistance of Studio 1919, Tomorrow's Technology Today was a pioneering broadcast which ran from 1936 to 1939.

As a short-form, interlude show, Tomorrow's Technology Today was intended to discuss current and future inventions, according to Lord Reith's manifesto for public broadcasting to inform, educate and entertain.

Profoundly British, with a noticeable bias toward British inventions and inventors, many people regard Tomorrow's Technology Today as an insignificant blip in British broadcasting history, but supporters include famous television historian Fergus Campbell Finlay Frazer McGregor McDonald, from the popular archaeology show, 'Where did you Dig That Up?'

Key to the success of the show, was the chemistry, or lack of it, between the co-hosts, the dilettante, and some say, congenitally stupid Douglas Austin Cambridge, and the highly intellectual physics graduate, Deirdre Morris Oxford.

Douglas Austin Cambridge was employed as the senior presenter, not for any qualifications - he didn't have any. He had been to school with the producer, Bernard 'Bunny' Eares.

Deirdre Morris Oxford, a quintessentially modern woman, refused to play second fiddle and  frequently went off-script. Her frustration with Douglas' inability to comprehend anything more complex than a cigarette lighter can often be heard in the recordings.

What also made Tomorrows Technology Today remarkable, was the use of vox-pop recordings of the public - the average 'man in the street'. Although the first of these, chimney sweep George Lampson, was run over by the motor car of the Home Secretary. Apparently standing in the middle of the street was a bad idea.

The programme was halted abruptly by the outbreak of World War Two, when the War Office decided many military technical developments might be leaked on the air.

Tomorrows Technology Today ran from 1936 to 1939, but only a handful of episodes have survived, thanks to the Herbert Maxwell Fosdyke Curmudgeon Memorial Sound Archive.

These recordings are recovered from a box of old 78's found in the shed belonging to sound engineer Reginald Blodgett after his death.

Up to this point, it was thought that no recordings had survived the War.

The HMFC Memorial Sound Archive is appealing to the public to donate any other recordings that may exist to extend the collection.

The Hosts
Douglas Austin Cambridge. Born in 1902, into an impoverished aristocratic family of considerable inter-breeding, Douglas Austin Cambridge was packed off to boarding school at an early age, an experience from which he never entirely recovered.

He originally made his name publishing a partial encyclopaedia of cocktail recipes (he claims to have forgotten many of them) and was an early experimenter with mind-altering substances. He would these days be considered a non-fonctioning alcoholic with substance dependency issues. In 1936, he was simply labelled 'eccentric'.

Douglas Austin Cambridge failed seven medicals and didn't serve in the military. It's thought he spent the duration of the war in a basement nightclub in London's Soho. After the war he received an doctorate for his contribution to science and served as vice chancellor at Trinity College Cambridge.

He was burried in a cardboard box in the garden next to his father's beloved Beagle, 'Napoelon.'

Deirdre Morris Oxford was the daughter of a green grocer from Pinner, and won several scholarships to Grammar School and then to university, graduating with a Masters degree in Theoretical Physics in 1938.

Recruited as co-host on Tomorrow's Technology Today, to lend the show scientific credibility, she proved more than a match for Douglas Austin Cambridge, the producers, guests and the British government.

During WWII, Deirdre Morris Oxford flew the delivery flights of Spitfires and Hurricanes from the Vickers factory to RAF bases all over Britain, becoming the first female pilot to shoot down enemy aircraft, two fighters, a bomber, and the plane carrying American big band leader Glen Miller.

After the war she served as scientific advisor to the first Labour Government, but eventually defected to Soviet Russia during the Cold War, where she proceeded to terrify the life out of Nikita Khrushchev and the rest of the politburo.

It's not known what happened to her after the fall of the Soviet Union.

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